Born in Venezuela, Reynaldo Hahn’s German-Venezuelan parents moved to Paris when he was three, where he grew up a musical prodigy. Accepted to the Paris Conservatory at 10, he had already been performing in salons, singing and accompanying himself on the piano. He studied under Massenet, as well as Dubois, Gounod and Saint Saëns, and by the time he was 15 his settings of poems by Hugo and Verlaine – for example L’Heure Exquise, sung by Philippe Jouroussky above – had gained him wide attention, not least by Verlaine himself.
In 1894, at the age of 19, he met Marcel Proust and the two became lovers for several years, splitting in 1896 but remaining lifelong friends. Hahn continued to compose, broadening his range to include ballet – Le Dieu Bleu was composed in 1912 for Diaghilev to a scenario by Cocteau and danced by Nijinsky – to incidental music and opera. He not only was the primary music critic for Le Figaro, he also worked as a conductor, opening the Salzburg Festival after WWI and served as director of the Paris Opera until his death in 1947 at 72.